Meeting on proposed Maglev train draws gripes from Howard builders, residents

Possible train route has hurt home sales, they say

April 24, 2002|By Jason Song | Jason Song,SUN STAFF

Howard County residents had their first chance yesterday to express their displeasure with a proposed high-speed train that could travel through the county along Interstate 95.

In a brief presentation to the county's Public Transportation Board last night, state officials explained the benefits of the proposed Maglev train, which would connect Baltimore and Washington and stop at Baltimore-Washington International Airport.

But builders and residents complained that the project would hurt property values and has halted progress of the Emerson development.

The development, a Rouse Co. planned community along I-95 in Savage, is being built after years of planning. Homes at the project are expected to cost up to $500,000, but few people want to buy because of the threat of Maglev, builders and Rouse Co. officials say.

"The picture of an attractive, well-planned community would be shattered," said David E. Forester, a senior vice president with Rouse Co.

Officials with the Maryland Transportation Administration, which is planning the project on behalf of the federal government, say the train's path is in the planning stages and could be shifted to avoid Emerson.

"We're going to do everything possible to avoid impacts," said Suhair Alkhatib, project manager for the Maglev project, which could cost $3.5 billion to $4 billion. The cost would be shared by state and federal governments, as well as private investors.

In a presentation to the board, which could recommend that the county support or oppose the project, Alkhatib pointed out the many advantages of the train, which could travel between Baltimore and Washington in 20 minutes and would divert more than 30,000 cars from I-95 each day.

The train, which could be built as early as 2005, might not pass through Howard County or Maryland at all.

The federal government is considering routes along the Baltimore-Washington Parkway in Anne Arundel County.

An alternative project that would use Amtrak tracks, and routes in Pittsburgh also are being considered.

State officials said they would drop one of the three proposed Maryland routes from consideration by June after gathering more public opinions. But builders urged them to speed up the process.

"If there's a 2 percent chance of that line coming through, I can't sell a house. Everyone is suffering every day," said Bob Goodier, president of Goodier Builders.

State officials will hold a meeting on the Maglev project for Howard County residents from 4:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday at Murray Hill Middle School.

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